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The practical benefits of making games for older folks

The practical benefits of making games for older folks

July 21, 2016 | By Alex Wawro

"This isn’t a utopian dream; it’s a business opportunity."

- Game designer and Indiecade cofounder Celia Pearce speaks to the potential value -- both cultural and economic -- of considering older players when designing games.

People of all ages play video games. And while people of all ages also make games, the game industry itself tends to focus on young adults when sizing up potential audiences -- and potential hires. 

It's a notable problem that has led many industry vets to rally against ageism, and in a new feature published on Polygon this week a number of folks both within and without the game industry speak to the struggles older people face in getting positive attention -- or any attention at all, really -- from a market obsessed with youth.

"The reality is that they’re just not on the radar of the video game industry. They don’t ever think about it, and they don’t research it," game designer, researcher and Indiecade cofounder Celia Pearce told Polygon. "Game companies understand why people are playing their game, but they don’t understand why people are not."

Pearce suggests that many game companies are missing out on significant business opportunities by not bothering to make games for the people who aren't part of their current core audience, which is typically seen to be young and male.

It's a topic the American Association of Retired People recently tried to shed light on by conducting (in conjunction with the Entertainment Software Association) a survey of nearly 3,000 Americans age 50 or older.

Based on that survey, the AARP estimates that nearly 40 percent of folks 50-plus consider themselves people who play games regularly, most commonly on PCs and mobile devices. But according to AARP exec Sami Hassanyeh, those people are mostly invisible to game developers.

"One of the reasons we did this study with the ESA is to say to game developers that you’re missing out on a big chunk of the audience that has trillions of dollars in net worth," Hassanyeh told Polygon. "Developing games for them, being connected with your audience, is critical for any industry to be successful."

The full feature, which includes further comments from Pearce and Hassanyeh as well as game designer/educator/occasional Gamasutra blogger David Mullich and an 80-year-old video game YouTuber, is well worth reading over on Polygon.

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